Is Your Roof Ready for Solar?

Stephen Vernon
April 3, 2023

When is your roof ready for solar?

Common questions about solar

  • Can solar panels go on any roof?
  • Are solar panels on shingle roofs okay?
  • Are metal roofs better for solar panels?
  • Which type of roof is best for solar panels?
  • What is the best roof design for solar panels?

In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about different types of solar options that could be installed on a roof. This post mentioned solar panels, solar shingles, solar tiles, and solar skins. Solar panels are popping up throughout neighborhoods in Central Virginia, causing homeowners to ask if solar panels are safe for roofs and if their roof is ready for solar. They are generally considered safe for your roof, but it does help to understand precisely what the process entails and know what to be aware of during the installation.

Solar and roof inspections

The first check box to complete when asking when your roof is ready for solar would be to get a roof inspection.  Your home's first line of defense against inclement weather getting into your home is your roof! When considering solar panel installation, you consider adding penetrations into your roof—increasing the chance of weather getting into your home.  Owen’s Corning recommends asking the question how old is your roof? A roof inspection can determine the approximate age of your roof if you don’t know. They recommend replacing a roof older than ten years old before installing solar panels on your roof. This answers the question if solar panels can go on any roof. It is not advisable to install it on any roof over ten years old.  Homeowners must inspect their roofs to spare themselves the headache of finding severe damage later. Also,

  • Check for Licensing

When installing solar panels on your roof, it is essential to ensure that the company installing them is licensed and certified. Solar panels don’t damage your roof when they are correctly installed, and using a licensed and certified roofing contractor is the best way to ensure that they are installed correctly.

Shingle roofs and solar panels

Are solar panels on shingle roofs okay? Solar panels on shingle roofs are wonderful as long as the roof is in good condition and under ten years old.  Asphalt shingle roofs should last 20-30 years with correct maintenance. If your shingle roof is older than that and you’re considering putting solar panels on your roof, then you should consider a roof replacement first.  Consider this, your roof is already over half its lifespan, and you’re considering putting on solar panels that generally come with a 25-year warranty. In another ten years, you may have to replace your roof because of the natural life span of a shingle roof. This incurs the cost of paying the solar company to come out and uninstall the solar panels and bars from your roof.  After replacing the roof, you must pay the solar company to return and reinstall the solar panels. This wouldn’t be great for the solar panels and would add extra out-of-pocket costs.  Check out this testimonial from one of our customers who had his roof replaced before installing solar panels!

Solar panels and metal roofs

Metal roofing makes for a great option when considering solar panel installation. Especially if you have a standing seam metal roof. A standing seam metal roof allows the solar bars to attach to the metal roof's seams instead of penetrating the roof.  

Standing seam metal roof clamp for solar panels

This special clamp is known as an S-5 clamp.  Some solar installation processes may differ from those described above, so ask your solar representative how they may attach the solar to your metal roof.  When it comes to corrugated metal, the solar panels will likely be installed with mounting brackets which will use fasteners that penetrate the corrugated metal panels.

Which roof is best for solar panels?

Between shingles and metal, the roof best fit for solar panels would be the standing seam metal roof as penetrations in your roof would be avoided. It’s always best to avoid penetrating the roofing material on your home. This helps avoid future leaking caused by the solar panels.

south-facing roof is best for solar panel efficiency

What is the best roof design for a solar system?

It’s typically known that south-facing roofs allow for optimal solar performance. If your home is east-west facing, the solar panels can still operate efficiently but will have less optimal performance.

Why is south facing better?

On average, the sun shines over the equator most of the year. For people living in the United States, having a south-facing roof means that your solar panels will receive the most direct sunlight for most of the year. Your roof does not have to be south-facing for solar to make sense, but this would be the best roof design for solar.

What should you know about solar installation?

  • Ask about warranty information
  • Receive information on incentives for installing solar
  • How much will you save with solar
  • What warranty do they have with their washers for penetrations
  • How often will you have to clean the panels
  • Will your roof need strengthening
  • Are there other options besides drilling into your roof
  • One factor that discourages people from exploring solar panels is the idea of drilling holes into their roofs to hold them. This is an understandable concern, but it is essential to know that there are other options to achieve solar besides holes to attach racking, including solar roof tiles or solar shingles. Talk to your roofing contractor to find out your options.

Wrap it up

First, get a roof inspection to find out the condition and age of your roof. It’s best to replace the roof before solar installation if your shingle roof is older than ten years. A standing seam metal roof is the best for solar installation because you can avoid penetrations in your roof. A south-facing roof receives the most direct sunlight allowing for optimal solar energy performance from your solar panels.

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